Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mt. Sifton to Hermit Mountain Traverse, Rogers Pass

Recently, Julian and I had a chance to meet up at Rogers Pass for a stellar day of alpine climbing and scrambling. With both of us being on the road for work, it took a little more planning and motivation to make this day come to reality and with last minute route changes due to travel restrictions on account of grizzly bears, said planning was also not without shenanigans. Nevertheless, by 4pm I was finished my appointments for the day and with a 12 pack of beer, a pile of potato chips, a huge recovery dinner and snacks and more snacks, I was rolling into Loop Brook campsite for very solid and appreciated chill and route research session while Julian made his way over from Nakusp, arriving a couple hours later.

After the always enjoyable catch up and road warrior note trading over a few beers and chips, we retired with the intentions of a 3am wake up call, quick breakfast and of course the promise, nervousness and excitement of a day ahead that may or may not be more of a bite then we are willing to chew.

We made quick progress to the alpine and walked past the sleeping campers at the hermit meadows campground in the early dawn light. The route-finding to the Sifton/Grizzly col was straightforward and enjoyable, working around ledges and meadows to the toe of a small pocket glacier and later, the col.

Sifton is a big 3rd class peak on both of the E and W ridges that we traveled, the former being the descent and quite a bit longer then the W, it took time to sort out in a couple of spots but was more or less easy sailing.

Moving up and over Rogers was similar in many ways to Sifton, although slightly bigger, more complex near the summit and one needing to work around snow (we wore approach shoes) a little more.

This face beckons in a different season.
Gaining the Swiss Peaks was one of the cruxes for us, not having mountain boots, we gingerly moved from the steepening glacier to the foot of the rock and made some easy 5th moves to gain the first and later summits, which were all quite easy, albeit with nifty exposure in spots.

Getting off of Truda (last Swiss peak) required a couple of raps but soon we were looking up at Hermit, the last of the day.

We encountered excellent rock and position on the W ridge of Hermit, we both agreed that this was our favorite part of the day. Just awesome.
Another beckoning face. Having these immense N aspects really provides some cool ambience to the trip.

Working our way down the SE ridge of Hermit required a couple of easy raps and some down climbing but soon enough we were on the glacier and watching the sun set over the western peaks.

All in all it took us roughly 16 hours car to car for this day, we felt we moved steadily throughout and took few breaks apart from the standard sock change and chill before the descent to the valley. We chose to rappel where others would surely down climb and I am positive that a 'running' approach to doing this route would cut a lot of time off the day. Still we were happy.

Interestingly, I had it in my mind all day that our plan included Tupper as well. Having the plans change we had not discussed this in detail and during the end of the day I started to prod JuJu with the idea of skipping Tupper. Finally, it came out that he had no intention of doing Tupper this trip and the idea that had been stewing in my mind was purely a figment of my imagination.

We made our way to camp, got a fire going and pigged out on some pasta with sausage and red pepper, our chilled beers that were in the creek nearby and some awesome cookies. The next day we both set off on our work tours again, a little stiff and sore maybe but with that feeling of lightness and contentment that comes from a good long day in the mountains.

Thanks to Julian for the great trip,  good nature and for always being keen on these types of memory forging days.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mt. Habrich, Sky Pilot and Co Pilot link-up AKA the Sea To Sky Gondola Triple Crown

I got to spend an entire day in the mountains on Friday and it was grand. After working a lot lately and spending last weekend helping Erin with her flower stand at the farmers market and Ryan roof his house in between the monsoons, I was ravenous for a nice big day in the mountains. Luckily, I knew just what to do - wake up in the wee hours, fuel up with a couple of Howes blend espressos and head out on a journey up to the sea to sky alpine country that's been on my mind a while. This was the one day of decent weather all week so I exercised the 'let my people go surfing' philosophy and took the day off!
With the gondola opening at 10am! (seriously, we want early starts people!), a from the road approach was needed. I bolted awake at 330 because I could barely sleep anyway and busted up a strange hybrid of the S2S and Evac trails which worked well and I was at the top station by just after 5.

The sun was coming up now and the mountains started to wake up with splashes of orange, azure and chrome.

I hadn't been up the NW side of Mt. Habrich before but I had the benefit of an examination of it while on rappel after climbing another route on the S face previous. I approached it with an open mind and didn't encounter any trouble on the way to the summit, my preference was for bomber rock over vertical bushwhacking so I think I did a hybrid of the Colin Haley expressway and the route escape velocity, with a move or two of easy 5th class here and there to surmount the walls between ledges. Was at the summit 3hr and 15m after leaving the car. Habrichs summit is a real climbers summit and is pointy and windy, pretty damn cool.

The SE face, originally I wanted to go up this way and do the traverse in the opposite direction but I have heard enough reports of the climbing on the side being harder for a solo trip that I opted for the familiar terrain instead. You can see 'the brain', which is the local name for the dome shaped feature in photo left which has caused routefinding issues for folks in the past. There are fixed lines down a gulley/bench system skiers left now and its a piece of cake.

A lot of work has been done on the 'Skyline Trail' by locals I am guessing. There is good trail and/or cairns starting underneath the S Face of Habrich and going all the way to Sky Pilot where it branches low to get to the upper reaches of the Shannon Creek trail or you can go up, off trail to get to the upper stadium glacier.

Gunsight Gap, no trail here but easy going.

Super cool and moody ambience .

Looking back at the ridge, got to be a top 5 hike for me in itself, without all the nifty summits. You can hike this whole thing (skyline Trail) without any scrambling if you don't do the summits.

The July 15/2016 state of the Stadium Glacier. I had approach shoes and a ski pole and that was all I needed.

Summit of Sky Pilot, about 6 hrs and 25 min to here from highway.

The snow field on Sky Pilot had this kind of 'in awe' expression with the open mouth but no eyes.

Summit selfie on Co-Pilot in the mist.

Looking back at Sky Pilot, so cool.

I stravassholed the entire day. This was the read out on top of co-pilot, it took another hour or so to get back down to the lodge where I double-fisted a coffee and a nice lager, which was yet another highlight, by then it had cleared and I could look out across the ocean scheming of other similar S2S missions. Erin even joined me for a sweet plate of french fries.

Bringing a fresh pair of your newest and cushiest socks for the descent down the trail is a real luxury and about as beaujolais as it gets. The other thing is tunes, pretty styly to cruise back down the trail listening to the grateful dead in your cushy socks.

What a great day, highly recommended for a good but not to long/hard day in the mountains. The super cool and complete traverse would take Al's Habrich trail and finish down Goat Ridge and into Murrin park...This would be pretty awesome but would take away the beer/coffee combo while looking out over the ocean and wondering what to watch on tv that night.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Gathered Rumour.

"There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over...Faint to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone."
- Tolkien

Friday, May 06, 2016

Thats a wrap!

Well that's it! What a great season of ski-touring on the South Coast and in BC in general, just so good. Personally, one of the best seasons of skiing I have ever had and the conditions were only part of it. Partners this season were plentiful and motivated, laughter abounded and many 'Ive always wanted to do that!" trips were achieved.

As the season comes to an end and motivations for climbing sunny granite or tail whipping the bike through the shady forest on perfect loam grow stronger, the odd trip plan pulls the skis out of the moth balls but for the most part, I am very content to wrap it up, a feeling I don't normally have in the late spring, an indication of a terrific season I think.

I thought I would share some of the highlights of the last few weeks, as you may have noticed, I didn't do many posts this season. The skiing was just too good and plentiful, I would typically wake up early, make espresso, walk our very energetic dog in the darkness of morning, drive to the approach, ski all day and get home in the dark, gear barely drying for the next days adventures. So went my weekly two days off as well as the normal mid week dawn patrol missions and of course,  the occasional work week day of PD :-).  House improvements and other normal life stuff took a back burner and Erin was incredibly understanding with my pursuits after two seasons of way too much of that stuff due to slow winters and low-tide.

Joffre and Matier:

I tried the triple crown two times this year (Joffre, Matier, Slalok) but was denied both times. However on one trip we were able to ski Matiers NE face in boot top blower and I have to say it was one of the best pitches of skiing I have ever done, which overshadowed the T crown and I still makes me good and giddy and smiley when I think of it..

As I mentioned, partners were awesome this year. Felix and Sarah being great.

About to drop in....SO GOOD!

Currie Zone:

4 days skiing lines behind Currie were outstanding and needed after a long work stint. We skied lines and from summits every day with perfect weather. Traveling light and camping in the mega light, we could cover lots of terrain and enjoy the travel.

Mt. Mamquam:

Chris and I had one of my favorite ski days I've had on Mt. Mamquam. An easy drive, hike through old growth and perfect conditions traveling through the complex icefield and to a pointy super-cool summit, all topped off with a 1000m corn run to treeline and cold beers in the creek. Nothing steep or Xtreme but a very classy peak and one I look at almost every day from town.

II want to thank my partners first and foremost for such an awesome season. Till next year!